Saturday, April 30, 2016

New Magic

After the Storm
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


The place was described to us
By the blind.  A thoroughfare

Of winds named by the Ancient Greeks.

We were given wings to aid our understanding.

Rooms filled with guitar music.

Signals from our nerve endings.

We were gathered for a Pentecost.

A bridge to Pentecost.

A kind of still sound found

Its way away from us and back

To the edge of the river at the base

Of the holy mountain.  The water

Was white and a marvelous green.

Its voice was huge and there was

No bridge.  We began the dreaming

As there was no other way to return home.

The shapes of the clouds changed

And eventually devoured us.

We could see the fields from

The tops of the clouds.  The yaks

Remained quiet the entire time.

We knew the songs of reassurance.

No one would notice us here.

This place was quite easily found

But to be still for such a long

Time was beyond even the waiting

Of the snow leopard.

Two days later I walked the streets

Of Kathmandu.  Our herd was well

And we had over twelve new calves.

Our clothing had turned a steel gray.

We had enough firewood to stay

For a week near the highland herds.

Just to keep the night open,

Two or three of us played guitars.

We were filled with the gift

Of many tongues.  So I speak 

To you now and you will understand. 

 Mamalaria Flower


Breaking through the magic until

There was only you, alone, in

Your own room again.

Butterflies from the carts in

Your closet where you kept the dreams.

I see them there, their moon 

Shadows, the listeners in the perfect

Stillness of the late Spring night.

We were not supposed to come here.

While I was holding you, kissing your

Lips, your breasts, the pearly rooms

Of your thighs, I came to know this

Meaning; could see it attached

To language all the way back to Sappho.

The breeze mumbling incredibly ancient

Stories quickly, as if we were late

Arriving.  The wine had been poured.

The music already making its own

New magic.

 Locke China Imports


The boards creak, but they know my names.

I can sit up in the line of light

That lies between the hall and the bedroom.

There is a charm about being lost here,

Like a saxophone being played in a darkened room.

Handling pearls as if they were smiles,

I can see veils lift and resettle

As the heater moves back and forth in the room.

The boards know the heater as if it were

A fox and they behold it as I do;

A wild heart unfolding beneath me,

Begging me to walk down stairs I can

Barely see.  I unfold as if I were

Pure breath, wind upon rocks,

The sound of the sea coming in
Through the window at two A.M.

I am unable to tell this story.

You probably know it anyway.

Remember that Summer night when you looked

Out of the window and it wasn’t your back

Yard any longer?  You had never been there

Before.  You were sure the creaking of the floor

Boards had woken you up,

That they had something important to say.

 Winter Vines


Torn by understanding not quite

Enough.  Pound’s Cantos could

Be molded into particular bullets

Not used to kill but to trick

A meaning out of a dark thicket,

A hell, the lope of a battle

Horse long without a rider,

Finding its way back into a twilight

Hardly anyone believed in anymore.

I’ve heard jazz tell fairy tales

And enjoyed that there were no words

To explain the wee folk

Seen from time to time again on

Obscure hills deep in the memory

Of the long dead.

“My grandfather saw them dancing.”

“That was probably Duke Ellington, my dear.

He loves you madly.”

A blank state over a cup of tea.

The landscape squealing an ensemble so fine

One hopes it might never end.

 Locke View


All of the objects in the mirrors

Have grown old.  Bouquets of bones

Are heaped upon the tables,

Gathered from what used to be

Distant universes.  All are

Without names.  They do not 

Wish to be remembered

As having a destiny.

They will not meet your eyes.

They will never know a genius,

A mouth upon salty skin,

A lifting of hips toward a lover.

They echo, longing for a kind of hunger

No longer useful for anything but

A soft and translated poetry.  Fingernails

Traced across a nipple or

The swelling of a sex rising

With the breath.

Mirrors do not breathe.

I run my tongue across the glass.

I will myself to forget your name too.

 The Apartment


There will be nothing but words

And I will be dreaming once again

And you will be my love and

Nothing will come true but

Magic and music and poetry.

I shouldn’t have to tell you how I got

Around in the late evening and waited

For the rooms to arrive.

It is so beautiful here, the fire,

The music filling the corners of this room.

The tiny heater moving the air against

The silk scarf tied to the floor lamp.

The entire house collecting stillness

Around itself being as important

As it might be, lacking any substance


So, tonight I will miss the warmth

Of your body against mine.  I will

Visualize the far hills, knowing you are

Riding them.  I will imagine a deeper quiet

Just so it is.


Today’s LittleNip:

—D.R. Wagner

All objects are nothing 

But what we attach to them.

The poet boat has slipped its mooring.

The dream so close to touching morning

It has skin that moves

Over the body like a lover.

A brilliant green line that

Has to become the horizon

No matter what else happens.

The late evening light so like your voice

At the time of the sky departing.


—Medusa, thanking D.R. Wagner for today’s fine poems and pix, and grateful that he is feeling better these days than in the recent past.

 Today is the final day of Poetry Month, 2016. 
Celebrate by going to Senior Readers Speak 
at 2pm, featuring Dr. Chaka Muhammed at 
the GOS” Art Gallery Studio, 1825 Del Paso Blvd. (Ste. 2), 
Sacramento. Then come home and read some of Pound’s Cantos at

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once;
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Tulips and Cowlicks

—Poems by Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
(Anonymous Photos)


It’s war
plain and simple
when I fill the feeder

out in the sycamore
with millet and niger
and sunflower seed.

Back in the house
I stare out the window
and watch juncos

and chickadees bicker
on the perch, spilling
more than they eat.

Cardinals and jays 
drive them away, argue
and spill even more.

Then starlings take over,
and like rice at a wedding,
seed fills the air

pleasing the doves below.
They walk like old nuns
and peck at the manna.



I turn the porch light on
because it’s dark when I go out
to find the morning paper.

It’s still dark when I start back
but when I’m on the porch I reach
inside a little bin for bird seed

and spread it along the bannister.
That’s when the choir starts to sing.
It’s too dark to see the birds in trees

watching me spread their seed
but they thank me with a lovely hymn
from the morning tabernacle choir. 


Miss Goody Two-Shoes'
sweaters aren’t too tight,
skirts aren’t too straight
and heels aren’t too high.

She’s a swan gliding
in this small town library
where old men sit at tables
reading newspapers
from all over the world until

Miss Goody Two-Shoes
has another cart full of books
she must wheel between them
so she can put them away.

And when she does, the men
stop reading and smile
as their adopted daughter,
another Audrey Hepburn,
gracefully glides by.



It’s a small backyard
I’ve watched for years
from an upstairs window
while chained to a computer.
Whatever the weather

the old widow was always
planting in spring
watering in summer
raking in fall
shoveling in winter

but the yard’s quiet now
the only traffic
a resident squirrel
heading for the oak
over the tall grass
the widow’s heir
has stopped mowing.

She told her son
you don’t have to garden
but please mow the grass
rake the leaves and
shovel the snow
or I’ll shake you
at midnight
the rest of your life. 


Every four years I vote
and every four years
for the last 40 years
the same lady
has signed me in

and every four years
she looks at my ID,
then up at me and says
“Don’t I know you?”
Meanwhile the people
lining up behind me
are getting impatient
so I tell her that

she knows me because
she signs me in to vote
every four years.
She nods and says,
“But didn’t you go
dancing back in the day
at the Aragon Ballroom?
You knew how to waltz
while the other guys
could only jitterbug.”

And so I confess that back
in the Sixties long before
arthritis and stenosis,
I used to dance a bit
and she looks away
and says, “You should have
called me like you promised.
I gave you my number.”

By now there are
eight people waiting
behind me so I tell her
I had planned to call her
but left her number
in my suit and they
lost it at the cleaners.

Otherwise, I tell her,
I would have called her
and swept her off her feet.
And after a big wedding
at the cathedral we'd
have honeymooned
for years and never
would she have ever
married my brother
who can’t dance a step.


We’re twins.
We’ve been together
from the start.
You’re the doctor.
You know that.

She didn’t sound happy
when you told her
there were two.
We’re worried
she doesn’t want us.

See you next week
when she comes back
with her decision.
We’ll float till then.
Nothing else to do.



White privilege it’s called and recently
I learned its name although I’ve been
white as a sheet for decades.
Like breathing and eating I take
white privilege for granted.

I push a cart through a megastore
in bib overalls and no one
follows me and when I hail a cab
in a snow storm, it picks me up.
My freckles may be a stop sign.

Not so my friend George,
black as tar in a suit and tie,
who finds someone behind him
in any store he enters.
And cabs are in no rush
to pick him up either
despite his fine attire.

I can't do anything about being white.
Nor can George about being black.
We get along despite the difference
because we know each other.
Salt and pepper, his wife says.

White privilege is nice to have.
To live without it must be a problem,
though George has never complained.
If other whites don’t get to know him,
he’ll be tailed for life in stores
and may go gray hailing cabs
as they fly by and he turns white
waving in the snow.


They were refugees, too,
back in the Forties,
settled in Chicago,
learned English,
some a lot, some a little,
found jobs of some kind,
made do like their neighbors
until things got better.

And by the Seventies,
on hot summer nights
they were loud and happy
gathering on Morse Avenue
around parking meters
in the dying sunlight
outside one of the delis
lining the street
to argue about the Cubs 
or politics or anything
they could disagree upon.
If someone made a point
someone else made
a counterpoint.

Arguments squared off
with cab driver against lawyer,
handyman against accountant,
all of them equal as a people.
They were survivors of the holocaust,
some with forearm tattoos
shouting under short sleeve shirts,
others with tattoos silent under
long sleeves worn to the office
that day with a tie.

Chicago had welcomed them
thirty years earlier and now
they were giving back, working
and sending their children
to college after making a life
and a neighborhood their own.


In a yard abandoned
this winter when
the owner moved

grass is growing
this spring
but not too well

tufts and cowlicks
sprouting up all over
a disaster in the eyes

of neighbors who spot
one thing however
they’d like to have

in their own yard.
Tulips tall and brilliant
among the cowlicks

tulips red and yellow
singing their hearts out
to blue sky and sun


Today’s LittleNip(s):


I never remember
year to year but then

some morning
in March

I'll walk out in the yard
and hear

the first trumpets
of Spring



After the Spring rain
two doves on a Dogwood branch
preening like starlets


—Medusa, with thanks to Donal Mahoney for today’s fine poetry, and a note that submissions to Sac. Poetry Center’s
Tule Review have been extended to midnight on Sunday, May 1. See

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April Colors

—Poems by B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


Nothing but expansive light
in my murmuring words
under the weight of stones
my vision is unlocked
from the persuasive corridor
for my Raleigh bicycle
treading along familiar paths
by the Cape's green greeting
receding from icy winter winds
as the earliest tourist boat
disperses to the home harbor
under a glittering April sun
under the gazebo's pavilion,
here alone with my cat
purring on the back bench
near my orange kayak
anchored in the harbor
the sleepy dawn gleams
at a poet tenant on the earth
going out at daybreak
to discover a new bird sanctuary
along with expansive wings
climbing up near an Elm tree
as a wandering sojourner
who collects pine cones
and an earful of seashells
disturbs an echo
as the sea sounds
in the open air
contemplating the sand.

April 22

The ocean needs
to be spring-cleaned
bristling with salmon
leatherback turtles
and right whales
below the hills’ shadow
we forge the light
of living bodies
who wish to swim
out in the blue waters
as the sun is out
on the back roads
as climate changes
in the open air
shielding my poet eyes
open in rivers immersed
with man's junk
no wonder
we are in a funk
as my cry on this Earth Day
gestures my hands
to my sisters and brothers
on my bicycle
that we may see nature
in all its beauty guiding me
through bays and parks
with a child's enthusiasm
to recycle
full of my sleeves with words
now green to plant
and listen to a nest of birds.

(An Elegy)

Undercutting the wonder
of a Spanish translation
whether in Paris, Madrid
or the Argentine
your personality
is as thunder to us
yet close to mine
in its poetic way
will never vanish
in the showering rain
readily reading you
for hours along the Bay
you may please a lover
from the ease
of nature's idiom
or take a critic to cover
in the form of language
discovering a heroic figure
sums up your age, Alberti
in the chronology
as we students
turn the page
of your elegy.

 Iberia No. 2 by Robert Motherwell, 1958


We both loved Blake
Picasso and Matisse
as you spoke
of your painting
Cape Cod
at the first art lectern
in my adolescence
with your sense of open
spatiality of your soul
from a blue ocean of ink
in graphite and charcoal
all the artifacts and prism
of world culture
in drawing humanity
of the Platonic and Judaic,
minimalism or Sephardic
from primitive to abstracts
pop, graphite or monochrome
and the Baroque yet processed
he visits a Spanish home
in time of Civil War
with a personal invitation
now along the mural walls
with fresh
cosmopolitan innovations
vanishing in a cerulean motion
of him hunched over
brushing strokes
in cultured totality
drowned in an ocean
a free-fall imagination
of the learned from Vienna
or newly found eidetic sound
as an objet d'art in his memory
of burnt sienna discerned by critics
fueled by a critic's learned language
outlasting his Iberia No. 2
ground in deep concentration
from bards like your comrade
Frank O'Hara whose lunch poems
you carry with his poetic mantra
logos, symbol and signature
from the New York school.

 Cape Cod by Robert Motherwell, 1971

(for Emily Dickinson)

You have not been here
a moment ago
in a resemblance
of enfolded fresh jonquils
when the snow is gone
on the threshold
of the now-green lawn
a trove of trees surprising us
as a single purple crocus
in our April flower bed
emerges by a benefit chance
to focus on us to sum up
a singular lover of words
still with her spirit's momentum
by the Amherst Common
as we visit Emily Dickinson
away from tumultuous crowds
of college students from Maine
and ski country of Vermont
which made this discerning poet
feel the thrill of an hour
of wanting reinvented knowledge
knowing that my annual return
is a pleasant metamorphosis
wanting to bring
more long-stemmed violets
for her resting place
above a shower's jet of rain
as one of our prominent
public critics
recites her belief in poetry's lore
facing the sun in a private lane
of learning about her lonely folklore
that all acquainted with her belief
have concealed a reinvented quatrain
we are reacting to this spring
as we seek a season's relief
in the peek of the sun
to primarily view new saplings
that awoke us but not in vain
as turning over a new leaf
sweeping up any earthly deficit
of our authentic memories revealed
but never fully contained.


After a bitter cold season
sitting on a park bench
watching the Boston Marathon
yet knowing my running days
are darkly enfolding over
and seeing the college students
speaking Spanish and French
vanish on the finishing line
so many veteran memories
like the plover scanned
on the Charles River
or the last flowers
or first fruits
define my wind of words
in hours to live well
as time passes me over
under the university bridge
fulfilled without swagger
as the young invade my space
rooting for colleagues in Boston
Cape Cod or Cambridge friends
in their miles of the great race
who gave me
their running numbers
on their sweatshirts
so I could watch their run
on the telephone or fax
on the course of patriots'
or tax day
a poet walks by gardens
unhinging clinging vines
in the glorious sunshine
still with a sense of wonder
without a sense of holiday
reading Emily Dickinson
yet knowing her pardon
reaches our pavilion.


Unhinge me, Emily
from the past
embrace me
with our family
in a bramble’s space
where a fawn
seals me in April memory
of his noted presence,
unifies me with all animals
muscular mammals,
right whales in the ocean
and minerals left by the sea
speak to me
as poetry in motion
by nature's revealed language
in my own vernacular
at the ferryman's edge of shore;
rescue the leatherback turtles
in our hand-to-hand rescue
with our humanity in a quick eye
of a daisy chain of solidarity;
leave me satisfied
with my musical portion in life
to still hear the lyrical cry
of those tossed overboard
in distant boats of harbors
those who are devoured or lost
on the high uneasy waves
from old maps of recollection
along our Coast
hear of the poor offering
in the flavor of my bread
to discover me with the birds
in the Evergreen branches
overhead, as we recall
St. Francis' voice in his words,
Forgive the unloved,
the one not savored or favored
let all those divided in anguish
yet wish for hidden hope
among these forest homeless
who sleep here in the woods
resting in the shade of asphodels
and purple Iris of our eye,
let us welcome spring together,
Oh Emily, New England's
word-gathering daughter of earth
hear a thunder of shadows
in her small world
as we picture this bard of Amherst
gingerly writing
who is often ignored
or cursed by her neighbors
by passing showers of reverie
after her unveiled soft sleep
as she labors over the balcony
along the white stone steps
where farmers still plant seeds
in the dark apple orchard
near her own cemetery
as she writes about nature
in her Thursday diary
about a metamorphosis of season
here in her vineyard
remembering this daughter
in our kayak or swan boat
floating along the dark waters.

(An Epitaph)

Your living history is intact
though we do not know
all the facts of your creative
passing time on earth
but for us we will not bury
your talented memory
though even today
your four-hundredth anniversary
many are claiming your legacy
but we know your genius
from your plays as a narrative
in sonnets, or lines
from rhymes of your poetry
you still sing,
in this my epitaph
for Shakespeare whether writing
of kings or a reunion with beggars
by laughing with Falstaff
drinking cups of wine with everyone
or playing his part and folio
with Malvolio, a feigned Puritan
pretending he has no sin
claims he hates games and fun
as a disciplined steward to Olivia,
as William with baited breath
waits up for Lady MacBeth
to shame her until her death
or weeping with his character Lear
or discovering Hamlet,
Laertes' daughter
with Ophelia's tears
that brings us close to the stars,
today there is still regret
from the world's amnesia
after passing years
which seem but a day
yet there is always pleasure,
for Shakespeare is not done
from an open departure
this anniversary afternoon
from his fulfilling voice
in our multi-culture time
yet bestowing his lexicon
in full choice of disclosure
as the moving of the sun
or in a contrary passing
of a turning blood-red moon
we act in yearning scenes
learning your precious odes
among your strenuous choice
in delicious repast moments
in the wit of Measure for Measure
feeding you the food
of the gods, ambrosia
along the riverbed neighborhoods
to deliver you a rose of Sharon
from your literacy shed
on the wrathful provocative stage
in your Elizabethan poet lore
taking a knife to open up
your literary history's heritage
leaving us from Tudor strife
for an unknown country
and offer and urge the span
for us to inherit your humanity
in a solitary path for literary poets
on every librarian's page
from death to a life story
you own this inglorious stage
in our sorry fate's seclusion
as we play our fiddle
and hear from our chorus
in barren disbelief after
a Will Shakespearean farewell after
four hundred years to the day
with a dirge under your cover
in the conclusion of our grief
from an author and lover
who leaves us in middle age
forgetting the funereal
wishing for your success
in more than a thousand counties
of the English commonweal,
let's largely celebrate this day.

(for Thomas Merton)

Spring is roughly timed
for this particular sunshine
as a frenzied drone
suddenly falls
from the blurred sky
as a sailor on watch
calls me over me on the beach
I'm reaching for shells and stones
gathering starfish bones
for our souls are often
still bound
by those in dereliction
who have sinned
by speaking fiction against us
whom we forgive
as we look up and live
or as we are reckoned
by a second wind
quickly changing direction
as the weather vane shows
and blows to Oak Bluffs
dazzling in a morning's daylight
by the emerging trees
waiting on weather's contradiction
staring at prisms of a sand pile,
here two children on their knees
once waited to focus
and in one day created
a castle standing very close to me
in the same summer place
of a once St. Joan statue
and St. Nicholas snow man
just a few weeks ago stood
now April colors are in green
will motion us to catch
the guff of a castaway poet
in a French blue beret
along the glassy shadows
moving along the Bay
here on this misunderstood poet's
most favorite bench
stranded as in a lotus position
as a red blackbird sounds
seagulls are in a fullness
of flight
over the Cape's bandstand
as a newly painted gazebo
shines at first light
this writer meditates at dawn
as cicadas are heard along
the kickball graffiti walls
at the edge of birdsong voices
when no longer snow squalls
are heard
by Martha's Vineyard's shore
hoping that red salmon
will soon strike
by the river bed
and snatch over onto
my old fishing rod,
I'm selecting for a Sunday lector
a contemplative prayer
directed to the Holy Ghost
that angels be sent out by God
to protect those along the Coast
as my eye closes
over the anchors of boats
held in these still
uncharted wintry waters
children are watching
an injured swan
now packed away in a crate
in slow motion
being rescued on the ocean,
as my alto sax blows tunes
of a jazz sonata's improvisation
for an understated gig tonight,
searching to stare at a nest of birds
in the light of my language
of my binoculars’ clarity,
I'm offering daily bread
for these restless sparrows
hiding over
maple wood branches
of the gathering homeless
among the beachcombers
St. Francis would bless
I'm watching people go
to celebrate the Passover holiday
at the local synagogue
who have invited me to play
my music at a charity event;
may my riffs be resurrected,
live on for a call to life
for all those who reason in an abyss
in a new season's metamorphosis
addressed from a remnant of spirit
that rises for all from the dead.

Many thanks to B.Z. Niditch for this lovely poetry brunch shipped to us from the faraway East Coast, and to the much-closer West-Coaster Katy Brown for her beautiful spring photos! About his work, B.Z. writes: These poems reflect my life's history: acting in Shakespeare plays (whose 400th anniversary was April 23); Ni Yulan's struggle (a Chinese woman civil rights activist who suffered for her cause); Earth Day (April 22); poems on Raphael Alberti; a couple of poems on Emily Dickinson; and poems on Fr. Thomas Merton (very influential in my life) and the Cape Cod painter, Robert Motherwell. (For more about Iberia No. II, see; for more about Cape Cod, see


Today’s LittleNip:

—B.Z. Niditch

You, as a woman, Ni Yulan
won the international award
for courage yet a prisoner
in the Beijing jail
still disabled.
May you be set free;
though man may fail you
in your still hours
from troubles for civil rights
your fight for liberty is ours
as you will someday sit with wonder
under a Yulan Magnolia tree
with a bouquet of flowers.



April is Poetry Month! Celebrate today by reading a few of 
Shakespeare’s sonnets at
then head down to Luna’s Café at 8pm (1414 16th St., Sac.) 
to hear Nancy Aidé González read— and maybe participate 
in the open mic yourself!

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

That Dense, Dark Vine

At the Coffee Garden
—Photo by Jane Blue, Sacramento, CA

—Jane Blue

We are always seeing, always
how deceitful memory
mutates into fiction.

When I was a child, I believed
if I had the key I could walk
into a painting
and disappear there.

Big aromatic leaves of nasturtiums
encircled the house and I would
fling open the casements,
lean out and inhale the fragrance.

I never was really young
but I was innocent.

Memory is circular.
You began to call me "Fiend,"
my handsome maker.
I was no longer
what you intended.

I searched and searched
for that child I remembered
seeing my monster reflection
in cottage windows

All the way out here
in the howling winds
and the icy wastes.

(first pub. in Fragments, an internet collaboration
edited by Dean Pasch of Munich, Germany)

—Photo by Jane Blue 

—Jane Blue

This is a meditation on death.

It starts with the agapanthus, a short
agapanthus tucked under a tall agapanthus:
perhaps cousins of the same color,
perhaps a different species. Both a tropical
azure blue.

Wait, death will come, but first the one flower
of the short agapanthus hatches like a robin chick,
pecking at its green pod, which hangs on
like a shard of eggshell or the egg tooth. I can
almost hear it chirping.

We saw doves lay eggs in a basket on the porch,
the mother and father both sitting on them
and hatching them. None of the hatchlings survived.

The individual spikes of flowers of the tall agapanthus
at first almost glow, but in only a few weeks
they droop and fade; and the same
with the short agapanthus.

And a butterfly sits in the tall agapanthus,
let's say it's a Monarch although it could be
the smaller, duller Viceroy.

But let's say it's a Monarch, king of butterflies.
It twitches its wings, then folds them so that the butterfly
is just a line barely seen while it sips agapanthus nectar.
Then it opens its showy wings and lifts high
into the realm of the sky.

I have seen crowds of migrating Monarchs cling to eucalyptus,
a brilliant orange and black display in Monterey,
and some dropped laconically to the ground for a sip of dew.

And some hadn't enough energy to rise back up.
This is a meditation on death.

There are four stages to the butterfly's development
and each one is a new life, a resurrection of sorts.
And each life is very short, as all life is short.
Even ours. It is all relative.

And then, if the butterfly makes it through its four lives
it mates and dies. And the eggs hatch. And the cycle
begins again.

This is a meditation on death.

(first pub. in Fragments, an internet collaboration 
edited by Dean Pasch of Munich, Germany)


—Jane Blue

My mother dropped me off at her sister's
in the country, to be watched. I remember

chicks hiding in a box like a suit or
a wedding dress might be stored in

partitioned by flimsy cardboard strips
making little rooms for each ball of fluff.

I gingerly lifted the lid and woke the chicks
at once in a din of cheeping. And hearing

my aunt's footsteps in the hallway, quickly
dropped the lid; and then she rushed in

at the racket and the silence, opened the box
and saw the neck of one chick snapped.

Those exed-out eyes, irrevocable death. My own
lifetime murder following me down the years.

 Ginger Monster
—Photo by Jane Blue

—Jane Blue

The ants marched up from the cellar
through a crack in the bathtub caulking

twelve abreast. No wonder they're called
an army. We sprayed poison.

What else can you do? If only we were
Zen enough to whisper, "Go. Sweethearts,

you don't belong here." But instead
we committed genocide. Now

a few disoriented stragglers stumble
on the basin, zig-zag and finally

turn to inert black dots. They go to the sink
to die. And I want to cry for them.

Is this how God feels?

—Photo by Jane Blue 

—Jane Blue

Instead of a ghost they have hung
an effigy of death in the doorway.
His cowled and grinning skeleton face

slues around under the eaves like
the lynched from a tree, sailing out
on October wind that scatters dry leaves.

His arms are held out like the crucified.
His robes are black, his bones are white
and he is thin. He is so thin, he's

transparent. He revolves toward the house,
the sun piercing his robe; he revolves
toward the street, blessing the north,

the south, the east and the west.
"Come, come, you all must come
some day." But he is just tissue paper!

Death is just tissue paper! The children
scamper in and out of the house
ignoring him. They are not afraid of Death.

 Digitalis Purpurea
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan, Fair Oaks, CA 

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

A vibrant hummingbird-silhouette. Wings beating,
guiding her droplet body by impromptu tilts
from this dart to that dart, then into a random seating
atop that vacant space wherein she flits;
what can it be that distracts her from the downplunge,
bill penetrating the next fruit-redolent blossom?
She hovers toplofty as kites, reluctant to lunge…
or it may be from high up the vista looks awesome.
Merely a college campus wherein she hovers—
could she, as do students, have need of an overview?
What first heights do we climb finding our loves and our lovers?
No, in her world, she values the overscent:
what nectars tomorrow will string for her beads of fresh dew?
What keeps her wingbeats buzzing unspent?

Before the dark closes in, tasting of rain and ink,
much winged rumination to do—can she smell gold?
How it fuses with thin silver layers behind the cloud-fold?
The radiant medium yields her both flight and drink:
Not only the welded silver and gold cloud glows:
she’s sipping up ozone, or is it the death-of-day’s rose?…

 Fern and Iris Grove
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan

—Tom Goff
        in memory of Charlton Ogburn, Jr., Shakespeare scholar

He seeks out the ouzel, watches where lapwings run,
when freshly hatched or just curious-close to ground.
Observes how daybreak paints choughs’ heads red with sun;
trains hawks, knows eyries where their young may be found.
He knows the feral human, yet how often staggered
by the animal’s Machiavelli calculations,
how quarrels lighter than hatpins may bleed whole nations.
For him, love’s as wayward as veers the high-soaring haggard.  

Cerinthe Major, Early Buds
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan

—Tom Goff

A soft-voiced Iranian student, her face distressed.
She explains: her husband has died; some thirty years sick
from the Iran-Iraq War, since the day a great bomb,
a chemical bomb, burst near him with unknown toxics.
How can my benign smear of words be of help or balm?
I wonder what use to embalm him for his long rest:
the bodies our souls have left become void, turn gulf,
this gulf simply Persian-vast, left beside her where he
the man she married and loved just now beat pulse,
gave touch, stood straight though stiffened with agony,
rasping in breaths with what we might take for asthma.
From where martyrs of revolution revved with zest
sent soft-bodied motorcycles with rocket grenades
against bristling trenches. Thick as the Tigris’ reed-glades
heaved waves of boy soldiers. Into our human miasma.

The silence as Whitman affirms it: a man as divine
as myself lies dead. It must be found in the Quran.
My friend freshly widow grasps how the dense dark vine
drops its clusters. And she declares her semester goes on.  

 Eucalyptus Trio, Early Season
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan

Today’s LittleNip:

—Tom Goff

Skaidra the sleeping beagle dreamspeaks:
soft-nosed little plaints, edgeless wee whines,
droplets that ping into steel pails brimming with leaks:
buttery brood-murmurs, raptures of feeding, desiring,
shadowy pup-bellies tucked under tails and spines.

Papaver Somniferum and Honeybee
—Photo by Stacey Jaclyn Morgan

—Medusa, with many thanks to today’s fine chefs in Medusa’s Kitchen!

 April is National Poetry Month!
Celebrate by spending some time with 
one of your poems which you've already begun—
finish it up, polish it up and send it to Medusa's Kitchen! 

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How to Reach the Self?

 —Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

      After Tulipa, pastel by Maria Sylvester
It’s in the feature known as
background—a drooping red flower,
huge crowding leaves for the hiding,
petals grown too heavy for the light,
the ineffectual light—caught
in a mottlement of shadows,
urgent daubs of green and splotches
of orange that overwhelm the flower.

The breezeway trembles with confusions.
The shade has lost the light.
Someone has died here.
A death-bird sings in the absence.



I am a mad doll with torn hair and broken face,
doll-tears and yellow tangles all over the pillow

in the dream of a sick child who holds me
in thrashing sleep.  I can’t get free.

Come put her other arm around you, thus.
Come play in the dark with me.


Here is
where the dark

life fathoms; where dense
figures move about and call

themselves shadows; where arms reach
out—and pull back in—at the touch of light.  

(first pub. in Lilliput Review, 2003)        



In the murk of remember,
a torn page lies waiting
for this poem:

I prefer the damaged—
the substandard—over the
sleek perfection of unmarred pages;

I favor this wrinkled sheet with its fading,
its stain from some old spill, its torn corner
from an uneven stack of such pages.

This page will do for my first draft
of whatever poem will come to me—
those phantom words I try to find

to honor the imperfect moments,
the illusive and unexplainable,
unworthy of acclaim.

I would dig deep into the rising
of mind-fragments for
what I would say

in empathetic musing
that would mean
the way my heart feels when it is broken.


The dark horse whirls. The lovers cling.
     Forever is a game they play.
          The other horses blur in tune.
               The children seem to disappear.
                    The lovers grow too old to care—            
                         they’re drawn too quick to be aware
                            of all but holding on to time—         
                             in rhythmic pull the horses lift           
`                          and try to win the fastened race.     
                         The platform strains against itself.       
                    The colors fade to black and white.
             The time is day. The time is night.
          The horses creak, and rear, and bring
     the circles back to where they were.                
The dark horse whirls. The lovers cling.      



It was the little things that broke us, like a dish
from soapy hands, or the deliberate glass flung

to the floor—or any such urge, regretted or praised
for its effect upon weeping—like a dam that breaks

and spills water all over your life, and you drown.
I held a knife against my wrist, or maybe it was you

with a gun against your throat. Or maybe this is only
metaphor—harsh examples to impress. There was

always the recovery of sense and balance. A few more
words, a few more deflections. Life was good, we said

and must be paid for with suffering. Even at its worst,
there is this need—this terrible need to love. 


It is the night of penetrant dark—deep lapses into
sorrow—that old state of being, vague and distant.
How to reach the self?

The mirror does not help—does not know the eyes.
There is no light for the mind which is delving into
known depths for the old deliverance.

The window swallows the night—allows sounds
to magnify—sounds to diminish. There is such
an ache in the universe. Fiction does not allow

one to tamper with reality: one becomes the other,
just as the face becomes the mirror-face, which
becomes the real face, which becomes glass-flesh.



Tonight, in the tweak of time, life enters
like a thief, taking what I am. Never mind

the hours waiting for my dreams,
the sweet hours of morning with their

and schemes.

I am not willing,
though I doze, and nod, and waken

at moments—lost—and not of counting, 
which is odd. I have a clock and calendar,

I have plans, small as they are,
not like tireless sands of sleep,

mindlessly drifting—over and over,
through the same container that I am.

I free the night,
I free the weightlessness. 


all you meant to say

the long quarrel with time
and its occasional rhyme

all the sorrows and woes
all faith as it goes

wondering again
in search of an amen

to contradict the prayer
that is ever there

beginning of the aftermath
in God’s hollow laugh

whisper then alone
faith is the undertone

that burns into the soul

the part of you that’s whole

Many thanks to our Joyce Odam for this fine breakfast she has once again whipped up for us, giving us her take on our Seed of the Week, Dark Moments.

Our new SOW is My Favorite Shirt. Or blouse. Or skirt. Or sox. Clothes are not to be sneezed at; some of them are friendlier than others and may carry memories, comfort, scents… We just can’t seem to let go of some of them, for reasons that are our own and that deserve to be written about. Send poems, photos, artwork about this (or any other subject) to No deadline on SOWs.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

wobble-voiced again—
old morning rooster

what does he crow about
—ruling the silence

the sleepless

with his unmelodic and
somehow plaintive crowing



 April is National Poetry Month!
Celebrate by writing a poem—on our Seed of the Week, 
maybe—or any other subject!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dragons Trampled My iPad...

Leticia Hernandez reading at Avid Reader Sunday, April 17
—Today’s Photos are by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Which kind of owl was calling
before dawn, as I opened the door
to let the dog back in?
Soft, a flutter of sound out of dark like
wind caught in the leafing of trees
and grasses forever spring-greening
out of winter, night—roots and tubers,
the dead still nurturing in death.
Screech owl?
Call of life that draws us back
into the world of soil and mulching,
seeding. Which owl?
calling names out of the midst
of messy life, spring-mud weighting
boots and fingers.


—Taylor Graham

Those boots bore me summer-long searching
up Iron Mountain and down North-South
Road, I stopped at turn-outs and logging decks,
let my dog out of the car to check old fire pits,
hiked the dust of rutted skid trails. No sign
of you. I didn’t find you at Stonebreaker
Creek where foxglove and columbine nod
their secrets of green in the shade of running
water. You weren’t among the boulders
at Capps Crossing, or the trail to Blue Gouge
Mine. Not a trace of you at Henrys Diggins
or down Dogtown Creek. My dog showed me
stubbed-out cigarette butts and rusting cans.
Above Fleming Meadow, I felt a shiver
of breeze like ghost-breath in September, as if
you might have passed here. My boots never
asked where we were going. They just put
one foot in front of the other as my dog and I
checked off blanks of stillness on the map.

 Paul Aponte reading at Avid Reader Sunday, April 17

—Taylor Graham

The place is haunted, of course, and cold.
Deep underground, almost beyond recollection
of daylight. They used to keep ice here,
drayed down from mountain lakes and stored
in caverns and tunnels, a maze of winter.
Sparse light ensconced at intervals
along the passageways. They say,
after the advent of refrigerators, only poets
came here, gathering in a cavern carved
out of bedrock, to work the dark by miner’s
headlamp; to listen for voices from
even deeper. A few of those poets remember
still. The place is haunted by words
that fly out at night, hunting the living world,
sparking fireflies if not stars.


—Taylor Graham

Girded with dawnlight
in this small corner of the world, and dubbed
with the flat stroke of a pen, we set out
errant on separate paths following the same star.

I prowed through knee-high grasses
in need of cutting. Verbiage!
Hazards along the way. Rocks under thistle.
Dragons trampled my iPad, its face

imploding in fractured stars, light
that flakes in my hand. Time rolls in waves
of our great Earth tiding, crazy
with green distances. Beg or borrow a line-

trimmer. Countless stars shine
by their dying light, our journeys aim
toward a single bright point.
We leave our wakes for our wakings.

 Sandra Garcia Rivera reading at Avid Reader Sunday, April 17

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

It was that time
The end of an era
A candle gone cold
Time for retirement

Jumped on the Internet
Social Security System
Began an application
So far, so good

I easily knew most
Of what was asked
My date of hire
Date of marriage

But for the date
My health coverage
Became effective
I had to save the application

Warned that later
Might be too late
Be careful
Mighty, mighty careful

I ignored the warning
And looked up the information
On another website
Might now be too late

Then returned to my
Saved application
Typed the re-entry number
And completed it, finally!!

It was about 8:30 PM
In California
but in Social Security land
it was already 11:30 PM

Like being stuck with
Washington’s troops
Crossing the icy Delaware
Until 3:00 AM

But I made it across
Warm and dry
Now wait 5 business days
And check the status

JoAnn Anglin reading at Avid Reader Sunday, April 17


We found a
Car dealership
That waxed progressive
Featuring prototypes of

Virtual dream cars
Not yet in production
But with ideas that are
Certainly ready to roll:

The Angus
Steer this baby onto
the highway and no one
will dare cut you off

The Virus
Watch traffic just
Melt away, not
Wanting to get too close

The Elvis
Carries that
Unusual sway
That attracts fans

The Hummus
Centuries-old Arab invention
No one can own one
It belongs to the region

The Corpus
Has the finest
You could imagine

The Jesus
No Neutral, no idle
Universally adored
Will take you higher

The Amicus
Go ahead, pile in
There’s always
Room for more

The Ruckus
Enjoy bar brawls?
Just climb into this

The Escargot
For those who want to
Travel at a slower pace
And leave a trail of slime

 Ian Kappos reading at SPC Monday, Apr. 18

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

Set a man up with a tuxedo
And you won’t
See him till two pm
Next day.  Or if the rental
Deadline is sooner.
Bloodstains optional.

Actually, you never
Really want to know.
Nobody ever gets
It right.  Remember
Your Senior Prom,
Your first wedding.
Yes.  Burn the photos

Dark suit, dark tie,
White shirt
Will get you anywhere
You need to go. Save
The Bond thing.
Again, you’ll
Never get it right.


Humphrey Borgart
In Casablanca,
Of course.
Almost got it.  But
There’s something
Still not right
About the lapels.
Don’t brood:
I’m here for that.


But originally
Riding clothes
To go out for the
Foxes?  Do you
Really want to go there?
Oscar Wilde explaining
It all as the “unspeakable
In pursuit of the
inedible.”  I thought not.

And the cummerbund.
Really.  No, no relation
Or mis-spelling of
The voice of Smaug.
It’s supposed to
Support the scabbard
For your saber.  Yes,
I thought so.  And keeping
The open pleats up?  To
Keep your opera tickets
Handy.  No one you
Know, no one I know,
No one we’ve ever
Heard of ever did that.


Last things, and I tell you
This from someone who has
Worn more tuxedos (Not
Always my fault) in more
Pastels than most art stores
Have palettes: they somehow
Want you in a tux?  Don’t.
Just don’t.  Hiring actors
Is much cheaper.  Besides,
They look better, and
Seem to enjoy it.


Good jacket, black t.  Nice
Jeans and Converse and
They won’t let you in?
Go home.  The people
Are more real there.

 Josh Fernandez reading at SPC Monday, April 18

Thank you to our contributors today, including El Dorado County’s first-ever Poet Laureate, Taylor Graham. And stay tuned for the final word on whether Carl Schwartz’s (Caschwa) retirement application made it through cyberspace.

National Poetry Month finishes up this week: on Monday we have Poetry in Motion in Placerville (6pm) and readers Stan Zumbiel, Albert Garcia and Troy Myers at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm. Nancy Aidé González reads on Thursday at Luna’s Cafe, 8pm. And Saturday is a big day, with Senior Readers Speak at GOS” Art Gallery Studio (2pm), and the all-day 2016 Sacramento Poetry Center Conference beginning at 9am.  Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box) at the right of this column for more info on all of these events and others coming up.

Here is the poster for the SPC Conference so you can see the details of what will be happening. Click on it once to enlarge it:

Today’s LittleNip:

—Taylor Graham

Insurance and taxes—a tombstone
on the imagination, a darkening,
atrocity against sun of an April day—

shadows making paisley patterns
of honeysuckle vine lacing the oaks,
so many shades of green,

and one black and white tiger
swallowtail canoeing
down the breeze.



April is National Poetry Month!
Celebrate today by heading up to Placerville for 
Poetry in Motion, to UC Davis to hear 
Billy Collins and Aimee Mann, or to 
Sac. Poetry Center to hear 
Albert Garcia, Stan Zumbiel, and Troy Myers.